In the span of a few short years the internet has become a critical component of life in the 21st century, and we are quickly becoming a world of those that are online and actively participating in the digital society, and those that aren’t.
Parents who fail to instill in their children the skills and responsibilities needed to successfully and responsibly navigate this new environment will fail to have prepared them for success. But this does not mean the internet is without risk. Simply mention the words internet and child in the same sentence and many parents start getting anxious – and it’s no wonder given the sensationalized press coverage of many online crimes. Fortunately, reality is far gentler that the media hype most of the time.
With some basic safety principles, skills, and choices, you and your children can confidently explore the web, try new services and be safer. Creating this safer online environment helps protect you, your family, your computers, phones, personal information, and reputation.
Here is a 11 point checklist to get you started on the road to Internet security, privacy and safety that will help you steer clear of Internet hazards whether you’re sending e-mail, dating online, making purchases or socializing – and whether you are on a computer, or your phone.
Keep them current and use them unfailingly-as automatically as locking your door when you leave the house. A computer that does not have security software installed and up-to-date will become infected with malicious software in an average of four minutes. That malicious software will steal your information and put you at risk for crimes.
The key aspects of a strong password are length (the longer the better); a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols; with no ties to your personal information, and no dictionary words.
Create an environment of safety for yourself by understanding how any website you use treats your privacy and your information. That fine print may tell you the company can own, resell, rent, or give your information to anyone they want. If it does, find a more respectful site.
Think about your own personal values and need for safety. Then share this information. You won’t be able to respect each other’s privacy and safety boundaries if you do not know what they are. Decide what information about yourself you are willing to have shared online, and with whom you are willing to share it.
Internet housekeeping is important. Review who you have as contacts, and who can see your online profiles to prune out those you no longer have a close relationship with. Review images and content you’ve posted to see if collectively these tell more about you than should be known; if they do delete accordingly.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stay on top of your credit scores to prevent malicious charges piling up or fraudulent accounts being opened and used under your name. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, you have the right to a free credit report year from each of the three national credit reporting companies—TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. The easiest way to do this is to request these through AnnualCreditReport.com.
You don’t have to accept invitations to be friends with people just because they ask. Women in particular can find it difficult to turn someone down – and creeps and crooks count on this very thing. If you don’t want to be friends, delete the request. If you are already connected with someone you would rather not be connected to, block them. You can also set a block on their email account so they can never contact you through email, and block their phone number from calling or sending text messages to your phone. YOU get to choose who, how, and when you are contacted.
Online and offline, instincts play a critical role in your safety. If something feels suspicious, trust with your instinct. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
Following these eleven steps will go a long way to keeping you and your family safer, but bad things sometimes do happen. If you or a family member fall victim to a scam, fraudster, abuser or criminal, the only person guilty is the abuser or criminal. You may have been naïve, or careless, but that does not give anyone the right to cheat, scam, lie, threaten, harm, steal, or abuse you in some other way. They own their actions, not you. Speak out, report the crime, and get any help you need to resolve the problem.
FTC Panel: Learn How to Protect Your Kids – http://www.idt911blog.com/2011/07/ftc-panel-learn-how-to-protect-your-kids/
About Identity Theft – http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/consumers/about-identity-theft.html
AnnualCreditReport.com – https://www.annualcreditreport.com/cra/index.jsp